Coming Back from Mental/Physical Burnout

If you have followed my blog you have probably heard me mention how I over trained for the Sugarloaf Marathon, which also happened to be my first BQ. Well, someone today asked me how I came back from that and I realized I never touched on that piece. I figured sharing my story might help someone else in a similar situation.

A little background before I start. I believe I followed the Runner’s World sub 3:30 plan while training for Sugarloaf. I am not completely sure because I trained with a group from work. I love training with a group but I also don’t. I don’t in the sense that it is harder to control my pace. I found myself always running faster than I would if I was alone. This is really where it all started. My easy runs were around 8-8:30 for all runs and I was trying to BQ with a pace around 8 minutes. Now when I look back I don’t see how that made sense, but at the time to me it did. If I had to run 26.2 miles at 8 minutes, I better be able to run all my runs at 8 minutes to ensure I can. Right? SO WRONG. But moving on from that for now. Anyway, I got in the mindset that I always had to train harder, faster, longer, more, more, more. That was my downfall.

I say downfall lightly because I still BQ’s and ran a PR of 10 minutes (3:43-3:33), but man did I feel terrible the whole race. Not even just the race, by the end of my training I had no energy for runs. Getting myself out the door was so hard and all I ever wanted to do was sleep. All the paces that once felt “easy” now felt impossible to sustain. I also had a lot of aches and pains. I basically felt like I was falling apart and just making it to the starting line.

To this day I think the reason I made it over the finish line in 3:33 is because I was running that race in memory of my boyfriends mother. The whole 26.2 miles I was thinking of everyone except myself, running for something bigger than me, running for people that can’t run. I told myself if I want all of my goals in life to come true, I have to be ready to work for them, through the sweat, tears and sometimes pain.  My mental strength was on point that day, even though physically I wasn’t in the best shape.

Let’s get to the important stuff, how did I recover? Honestly, I know some people won’t want to hear this but I stopped running. I was happy with my accomplishment, my BQ and I had no races in the near future so I decided to take at least a month off and make sure all my ailments were better before returning. I know some people take a couple weeks and then ease back with easy running, I didn’t do this. You see, I lost my love for running somewhere along the way to Sugarloaf and I wanted to get it back, but I knew it would take time. Luckily, I got a puppy to fill that time!

Getting my own puppy and juggling working and spending every other moment with her, resulted in me taking the entire summer off from running. I stayed in shape and I ran from time to time but not frequently. If I did run, I ran without a watch and made sure I was running because I wanted to not because I thought I needed to. It was a freeing summer, I had time for other things. I could focus on my friends, boyfriend, family, puppy and soaking up the sunshine trying new things. It was refreshing. I will note I stayed in shape with gym classes and non-running cardio.

Eventually I missed running so I started adding in a couple runs a week, all watch-less. All my aches and pains were gone, my energy was back and most importantly my love for running returned. From there I slowly built up my running again, starting with 5k’s which I had never raced before. A new distance brought the familiar excitement of trying to conquer a new distance.

Then even though I didn’t expect to get in I signed up and crossed my fingers my time was good enough for a Boston number. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but when that happens it lights a fire in you that I had never experienced before. I was more determined than ever to run sub 3:30 to ensure I would get into Boston. So in September I decided to sign up for Napa Marathon again and this time I would do things differently, I would hire a coach.

What prevented me from over-training second time around?

  • SLOW easy days – before I ran 8-8:30 for easy days, for Napa and now I run 9-10 pace
  • Listening to my body – I wasn’t afraid to sleep in and fit a run in later if I knew my body needed it or alter a workout if it wasn’t my day
  • Better diet – I ate a very well rounded diet, for Sugarloaf my eating habits were not the best 😉

How did my training differ?

  • Variation in workouts
  • Tempos & Speed
  • Guidance on paces

Then in early March I crossed the finish line in 3:20! If you are in a similar situation, I know its easy to get caught up in social media and what other people are doing, but if you are burnt out give yourself a break or mix it up. In the long run you will be a better runner!

Tips for overcoming burn out or over-training:

  • Make sure you are running for you & you love it
  • Don’t fall into the comparison trap
  • Give yourself a break/hiatus if needed
  • Run watch-less
  • Find new locations to explore
  • Get rid of your plan and just run when you want for however long you want

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